Today, instead of a podcast conversation I would like to share with you the audio of my newest organ demonstration I just did for a group of 5th graders from Vilnius International School in English. On the Klais organ at Lutheran church was my colleague Dovile Savickaite and I talked about the pipe organ, J.S. Bach and his music.
Let me know what you think.
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A couple of days ago Ausra and I played organ demonstration in the little town called Leliunai. The listeners were 10 kindergarten kids and 18 elementary school children and a few of their teachers. This event was organized by National Association of Organists in Lithuania.
While Ausra played music of Bach, Krebs, Mendelssohn, Franck and Lefebure-Wely, I made up a fairly tale about how Pinky and Spiky built pipe organ for the kids.
We had color paper and color pencils with us so the kids could draw this story themselves... It was a lot of fun... We hope they will remember this for a long time...
Here are some pictures from today. Would you like to have a similar event for children in your area? Let us know your thoughts...
I hope you'll enjoy this improvisation on the Bruno Goebel organ at the Cathedral in Panevezys which I played before my organ demonstration there on September 21, 2018.
The organ was built in 1931 and has 3 manuals, 25 stops and pneumatic action. It came to Panevezys from the chapel in Konigsberg. There is room for 13 more stops which could be added in the future. Goebel made a new organ console with 38 stops which would fill the Cathedral space. In 2008-2014 the instrument was restored by the Lithuanian organ builder Antanas Šauklys workshop.
Here is the full specification list
If you want to watch entire organ demonstration, here is the video (demonstration starts around the 10 minutes mark).
Please let me know what you think.
SOPP266: I think it’s important, for organists to show people, no matter how young or old they are, the instrument, if they’re interested
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 266 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dan. He writes, in response to my question about how he became fascinated with the organ. So he continues:
For me, I’d say even back then when I was really young, I had an interest, and fascination in the organ. And as I still do to this day, whenever I’d hear the organ played at the church i’d attended at the time, which had really nice, excellent acoustics, i’d listen to every little detail of the organist’s playing. Some friends of ours had one of those little spin it organs, made by a company who I don’t think was really known for making stuff like that - Electrohome.
Whenever we’d go over there, I’d never want to get off of that instrument. It was one of those that had slightly shorter manuals than a conventional 61 key manual. They only went down to an f, so they were shorter on the bottom end, and only 13 little short, tiny pedals, which you could only play one note at a time on.
But back to that organ in the church i’d attended, I one time, had attempted to talk to the organist, we’d went up to the console after a service, and I’d asked if I could take a look at the instrument, it was a two manual Allen organ, from the late 1980’s I think. She’d pretty much said no, that I couldn’t, but i managed to get a finger onto the bottom notes of one of the manuals. She’d either totally turned off the organ, or just didn’t have any stops on, I’m not sure which it was, as when I’d pressed the keys which I did manage to touch, I didn’t hear any sound at all.
I was disappointed, after we’d left there. I think it’s important, for organists to show people, no matter how young or old they are, the instrument, if they’re interested. I later did get to try that organ, but that was a couple of years later, after that first experience.
V: So, Ausra, I think the main idea that Dan is trying to communicate is his disappointment in the situation that the local organists didn’t show him the organ.
A: Yes, it’s very disappointing, you know, for a kid.
V: Did you have something like that in your life when you were growing up? You said your first experience with the organ was in Nida, right?
A: Well, when I heard the homeland organ recital, yes.
V: Did you want to go upstairs and try out the instrument yourself?
A: No, because I think I was just too shy for such a thing, but I remember that recital. It was really something! And then also afterward, I finished my first grade of elementary school. We had our choir concert at the Philharmonium building in Vilnius, which has this big Schucke instrument. And Bernardas Vasiliauskas, actually, he was the man who played that organ recital in Nida at the first organ recital that I have ever heard, he actually showed us that organ from inside, and I just remember that feeling—it was so fascinating. I just could not imagine that there could be so much space in the instrument, so…
V: Ausra, now tell us a little bit… how did you become a professional organist? How did you decide to become a professional organist? Who suggested for you this idea?
A: Well, it was actually by accident, I think, that I became an organist.
V: Right, so….
A: Because simply, I graduated from National Čiurlionis Art School, where I teach now, and I didn’t want to go the Acadamy of Music, because my major at the time was choir conducting, and I didn’t want to lead a choir. And, I wanted to study history at the University of Vilnius. But, then I met one professor, a piano professor from our Academy of Music, and he listened to my piano playing, and he told me that I should study at the Academy of Music, and if I don’t want to study choir conducting, I could study the organ.
V: That’s right. And you said yes, right? Did you spontaneously agree, or did you….?
A: Well, yes, I almost spontaneously agreed, because I have never thought about that possibility, but since childhood, the organ fascinated me. And then, he told me about this possibility, I was sure right at that moment that it’s the right path for me.
V: So you say that when you said “yes” to that piano professor, in your memory, this Philharmonium Schucke organ experience came out, right?
A: Yes, and the Nidas recital, too. So, I think it’s very important, what you experience as a child.
V: Imagine that Bernardas Vasiliauskas would have been busy or not there, and didn’t show you this organ from inside. Your curiosity about this instrument might have not been great at that moment.
A: That’s true! That’s true, because I think that children are the most eager to accept things and to experience things, not an adult. I think so many adults with the years just lose the curiosity, and it’s just too bad.
V: And when my teacher were at the academy of music because of the organ, too.
A: That’s right.
V: So, we probably wouldn’t be speaking today to you guys, if not for Ausra’s first grade experience, right? When someone really great introduced the organ to the entire class, group of children, and for me, probably, too! If my mom didn’t show me the instrument in our summer place where we stayed—small village church, anonymous builder organ without pedals, and she pumped the bellows for me by hand—I probably also would have chosen a different path, maybe choir conducting!
V: Because, I had probably a stronger interest in choir conducting than you at that time.
A: So, I think it’s a good lesson from Dan’s letter that we can learn, all of us, you know who are organists and have access to an instrument, that if somebody, especially children, show interest in the organ, we need to show them around. Let them play. Of course, not damaging the instrument, but you know, really, we need to guide them, and to show them the instrument, because one day, maybe they will decide to learn this profession! And I think it’s so important nowadays when organ art is slowly dying.
V: And, for example, if you are doing organ demonstrations to a group of kids, it’s really a great idea to let them draw the organ. Not only play, but draw. So, maybe one or two are playing at the moment, sitting on the bench, or sometimes even three, but the rest of them could draw with pencils or with crayons, or pastel, something that you could all bring together, like a story about the organ, and that way they will internalize the instrument and experience much deeper.
A: That’s right.
V: Thank you guys, this is a lot to think about for us, and hopefully for you, too. And please keep sending us those wonderful questions, we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
I almost forgot I scheduled this organ demonstration today!
After the first ear training class this morning for 7th graders, I was ready to go and practice on our school recital hall organ. I wanted to play some Langlais...
Without any rush I went to the bathroom to refill my water bottle and then checked out the key from the organ balcony.
It was then when somebody called on my cell phone. It turned out to be my colleague music history teacher to whose 6th grader's class I promised to do an organ demonstration. She was teaching them about various musical instruments around this time and pipe organ was next on their study list.
So the kids were already waiting for me and I almost forgot this event!
OK, it's going to be really fun...
I started demonstrating this organ, telling stories about the stops and the mechanics of this instrument.
Then I played BWV 565 Toccata without the fugue from memory. I actually forgot the ending so I improvised my own ending (don't tell master Sebastian).
I then took out one of the wooden pedal pipes and gave the kids to blow on it. Only after did I understood what kind of mess I made: the pipe was very challenging to put back in place because you couldn't really see the handles on the back side of it.
I tried to do it several times, gave up and gave to some of the bravest boys, they gave up and then their teacher volunteered to help out. Luckily she was a tallest one from our group and actually succeeded almost immediately to put the pipe back in place.
Then I gave all the kids the chance to play this small 10 stop two manual organ. It has an ugly post-war German really piercing sounding 1' 3 rank Mixture.
It turned out to be their favorite stop!
Almost all of them used it when they tried out the organ with their hands.
While they were playing I took the rest of them into the organ chambers to take a peek and enjoy the "beautiful" sounds from the inside.
Heavy duty earphones would've been really nice!
Nevertheless they were all extremely happy. Maybe next year somebody from them will take organ lessons...
So what's the deal with mixture that fascinated them so much? What do you think?
By Vidas Pinkevicius
The above drawing was made by a 7-year-old Andrius after I gave him and his dad a private tour of the organ at Vilnius University St. John's church.
When he presented me his vision of the largest pipe organ in Lithuania, I started thinking that the organ demonstration experience could be much more profound for kids if we ask them to draw what they saw afterwards.
Notice it's not the usual boy-drawing - airplanes, soldiers, machine guns or cars. It's a pipe organ.
So next time you play an organ demonstration for a group of kids, their teachers and parents you found in some school of your area, make sure you give them some homework, like drawing a pipe organ that they saw or depicting a feeling of music that they heard.
Connect their hand, eye, and ear into complete experience that they will never forget.
Is it OK to let children touch the organ when you invite them to the organ loft?
Watch this video with insights from me and Ausra and share your opinion in the comments.
Today my collection of DVD's has been updated with the new "Meet the King of Instruments" organ demonstration which I recorded on October 13, 2015 for a curious group of German lawyers in English. You can check it out here.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Practice I-VI-IV-V-I in D minor (see example below).
Do you have a question about harmony for Ausra? You can reach her by email.
What happens when you have 17 first-graders gather around a pipe organ?
Last Friday in the morning, I had a privilege of witnessing this in my own eyes when a group of elementary school kids with a few teachers came to Vilnius University Saint John's church for an organ demonstration.
It was a rainy day in Vilnius, and I met them all downstairs at the entrance to the church. The first thing we did was to say hello to each other and let their wet coats in the pews.
While they were getting ready to climb to the organ balcony, I told them the legend of "Damned Brothers" - a scary story from 1600's about an incident in this church where one boy took the ring off the finger of a rich man who was buried in the cellars under the floor. Suddenly the rich man sat up as if alive and shouted, "damned brothers" help me!" To avenge the little thief hundreds and hundreds of bones and sculls rose and tried to chase the boy around the church. The boy ran up the balcony to the organ and locked the doors behind him. Because the dead couldn't climb stairs, they started to climb on top of one another and would have caught the boy if not the rooster whose song announced the breaking dawn. When people came into the church in the morning, they found the boy in shock trembling from terror and hundreds of skulls and bones all over the place and a hideous stench in the room.
The funny thing was that when I asked the kids somewhere in the middle of the story if they weren't scared, they all shouted "No"!
By the way, afterwards I thought that this colorful legend could well serve as the basis for my organ improvisation recital on June 17, 2016 during "Culture Night" - a special festival in venues across the city (last year I played "A Legend About the Founding of Vilnius" on the same occasion).
So anyway, when the kids followed me on to the organ balcony, I told them to behave very carefully so as to not fall off from quite the distance down to the floor. Then I opened some of the panels of the organ case for them to see the action and started my demonstration.
I talked about how the organ sounds are produced, about some of the more interesting things about the mechanics, also about the largest organs in the world with 7 manuals. Again, when I asked them if they wanted to see the windows and the columns of the church break from the tremendous roar of the organ, they all shouted from "Yes" from joy!
To illustrate my talking, I chose to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" which I hoped they would know and appreciate. At the end I played Bach's D minor Toccata but the kids were not familiar with it yet.
Children were very curious and constantly tried to find out various details about the organ. I had to keep their attention at the maximum by telling various stories which wasn't easy.
Luckily there came a time for them to sit down on the organ bench and to play themselves. Boy, you should have seen their faces - with their feet and hands they touched the stops, keys and pedals and sat 3 at once on the bench.
Incidentally, the music they produced reminded me of such avant-garde and landmark piece from the 1960's as Volumina by Gyorgy Ligeti.
When we were finished, they reluctantly came down the balcony, we made a group photo, and I asked them to draw pictures of this organ at home or at school which hopefully they did.
Who knows, perhaps they will remember the organ for some time and maybe one or two will want to learn to play it in the future?
How would you demonstrate the organ for first-graders? Their curiosity about this instrument is certainly very different from what interests adults in the organ, isn't it? Would you agree that storytelling is the key when it comes to organ demonstrations? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Welcome to episode 13 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Today I'm sharing my October 13 organ demonstration for a group of lawyers from Germany who participated at the conference at Vilnius University. They were very curious audience and quite knowledgeable about music so their questions to me were pretty thoughtful and we had a special connection.
"Lead actually is quite dangerous for your health if you chew or touch too much so organ builders handle the pipes very carefully with special gloves and don't put them into their mouth carelessly. But because they have to really blow and check the pipes the officials of the European Union in 2006 tried to forbid all lead materials in electronics and manufacturing and one of the victims of this initiative would have been pipe organs because lead (together with tin) as a material is everywhere for pipework. But I believe that influential organ builders succeeded in convincing the EU officials that lead is not too dangerous if pipes are just standing in the building and handled properly during the construction process. So they allowed organ pipes to be build from this alloy as well."
Listen to the podcast
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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